Song of the Day #890: ‘Dear God’ – XTC

I’m finishing up my religion week with the song I consider the best of the (admittedly sparse) atheist genre. ‘Dear God’ is the brilliant final track of XTC’s 1986 Skylarking album.

Actually, I’ve just learned that the song didn’t appear on the original version of the album but was added for the CD release in the U.S. and Canada (it had performed well as a B-side in England). Hard to believe they left it off the album in the first place.

XTC is a band that fascinates and excites me when I listen to them… which is almost never. I’m not sure why I don’t listen to Skylarking more than I do. It’s consistently clever and musically adventurous, right up my alley. And I don’t know why I never made a point to explore the rest of their ample discography. Priorities, I guess. But I do highly recommend this album.

‘Dear God’ is almost as angry as Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Terrible Lie’ but it mixes things up a bit by having a little boy sing the opening verse. Does he represent the childish aspect of humanity that opens us up to the idea of a supreme being? Or maybe he’s just lead singer Andy Patridge’s kid?

Today’s song, like several others I posted this week, is about what C.S. Lewis dubbed “the problem of pain.” How can an all-powerful benevolent God be responsible for a world in which so many awful, unfair things happen? It’s an excellent question and one that is usually answered with some variation of the “free will” argument.

I’ve never bought that, especially when it comes from people who also believe strongly in the power of personal prayer. I’m reminded of Star Jones, who said on The View following the Indonesian tsunami that God was looking out for her because she had been in that region just a month earlier. Yes, Star, God made sure you were safe and sound before killing those 230,000 other people.

My position on all of this is that if there is a god, it is so completely removed from natural and human events that its presence is indistinguishable from its absence. And if that’s the case, absence is certainly a far simpler and more cognitively satisfying explanation.

But unlike this little ditty, that wouldn’t sound good in a song.

Dear God,
Hope you got the letter and
I pray you can make it better down here.
I don’t mean a big reduction in the price of beer
But all the people that you made in your image,
See them starving on their feet
‘Cause they don’t get enough to eat
From God

I can’t believe in you.

Dear God,
Sorry to disturb you, but
I feel that I should be heard loud and clear.
We all need a big reduction in the amount of tears
And all the people that you made in your image,
See them fighting in the street
‘Cause they can’t make opinions meet
About God.

I can’t believe in you.

Did you make disease, and the diamond blue?
Did you make mankind after we made you?
And the devil too?!

Dear God,
Don’t know if you noticed, but…
Your name is on a lot of quotes in this book,
Us crazy humans wrote it, you should take a look,
And all the people that you made in your image,
Still believing that junk is true
Well I know it ain’t, and so do you
Dear God

I can’t believe in…
I don’t believe in…
I won’t believe in heaven and hell.
No saints, no sinners, no devil as well.
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You’re always letting us humans down.
The wars you bring, the babes you drown.
Those lost at sea and never found,
And it’s the same the whole world ’round.
The hurt I see helps to compound
That Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Is just somebody’s unholy hoax
And if you’re up there you’d perceive
That my heart’s here upon my sleeve

If there’s one thing I don’t believe in…..
It’s you…..
Dear God.

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #890: ‘Dear God’ – XTC

  1. Dana says:

    Hey, I think you’re on to something with that song concept of yours. I will happily write the music to the song entitled “If there is a god (it is so completely removed from natural and human events that its presence is indistinguishable from its absence)” 🙂

    Anyway, I’ve always loved this song and this album. I too have also never sought out additional XTC albums, though I’ve heard that at least some of them were very well received. Not sure why I didn’t listen to more XTC, but I suppose that was God’s will:)

  2. Amy says:

    A great, provocative song. One that does capture Clay’s theory (without being quite as literal as Dana’s proposed lyrics).

    Meanwhile, I feel as though there are some other “popular” God songs that you didn’t feature this week, but right now I’m drawing a blank as to what they are…

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